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May the best pan win
Posted By: News
Date: Saturday, 19 October 2002, at 8:21 a.m.
Among our people, there is bound to be some anxiety about maintenance of this countryís rank in the world of pan, given the standings as steel orchestras from around the world go into tonightís final of the World Steelband Music Festival (WSMF II).
Englandís Ebony Steel Orchestra leads the eight finalists as they go into the ultimate test. Quite naturally, questions have surfaced about Trinidad and Tobagoís status, in the event the grand prize goes to one of two visiting orchestras in the final eight.
But Trinidad and Tobago cannot lose. Of course, we are not here alluding to connections on the adjudication panel or privileged information therefrom, nor would we seek to influence them were it otherwise.
Fact is, panís creators, longing for appreciation from the wider world of music, can no longer embrace their invention so tightly it ends up being smothered by sheer jealousy, or at least misdirected love.
While we lament the few hiccoughs experienced by this edition of the festival (and we should note they numbered considerably less than at the inaugural contest two years ago), it is useful to reflect on the size of the task and view its eventual outcome against that backdrop.
Even with global appreciation of pan music, it remained difficult for organisers to raise significant sponsorship for WSMF II. Although agreed in principle, financial input by the State is yet to be quantified.
Chairman Claude Clarke was immobilised by ill health as planning approached its most crucial stage and it is to his credit that Lt Col Colvin Bishop was able to grasp the project and bring it to conclusion, hurdling the difficulties that continued to spring up en route.
But the world is growing in its appreciation of pan, even if we in its birthplace are yet to fully internalise the value of the instrument as a legitimate music source, some still of the view that pan is but a cut above native novelty and Caribbean exotica.
Participation by orchestras, soloists, duets, quartets and ensembles from Europe, the US and the wider Caribbean have indelibly demonstrated a degree of worldwide enthusiasm for pan music that cannot possibly have been anticipated by the instrumentís inventors.
It is not, therefore, the primary business of taking home another trophy that should concern us, although victory at a test of skill created here does have its benefits in self-esteem, perhaps even more so than the immediate value of cash prizes.
There is no longer any question about the origin of pan. And in all cases where foreigners have become adept at handling the instrumentís demand for dexterity, to a person they have reinforced Trinidad and Tobagoís role in the creation and history of steelband music.
The involvement of a cross-section of music interests from around the world has also brought with it a level of scholarship that pan needs, if its spread and continuing research into the characteristics of this relatively new musical instrument are to be fully understood and exploited.
We have noted as a welcome sign those composers who set out to create works especially for pan, much as comparable initiatives were undertaken for string and wind instruments in the early stages of their evolution.
And we are not daunted by the paucity of audience at the early stages of the orchestral playoffs or at the minor category finals that took place last week. Apart from the Carnival-related Panorama competition, pan has traditionally suffered from poor crowds at qualifying stages of these contests.
We can, however, urge pan fans to go out and support tonightís world final, as a way of making the Trinidad and Tobago presence felt by our representative bands and, by the same opportunity, getting a closer appreciation of what pan has been able to achieve abroad.
We therefore wish all orchestras on show tonight the best of luck at the final and reiterate our core position: may the best pan win.
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